On November 19th, 2018, Seattle Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto announced that the Mariners would acquire a package of players (Erik Swanson, Dom Thompson-Williams, and Justus Sheffield) from the Yankees for starting pitcher James Paxton.
“Justus Sheffield has an unquestionable prospect pedigree. With a combination of high-end velocity to go along with an advanced slider and a developing changeup, we think Justus has a chance to pitch at the upper portion of our rotation soon,” Dipoto said after the trade occurred.
Sheffield showed promise in his second year in the organization, cooking up a stellar 2020 season.
Facing a very hot Rockies team, Sheffield put together a game where he retired 8 of the first 9 guys he faced, ending the game with 7 strikeouts, no walks, and 4 hits allowed with no runs allowed over 6 innings, earning him his first win in his big league career in front of a bunch of cardboard cutouts of fans. Manager Scott Servais felt the same about Sheffield as Dipoto.
“The future is very bright for him,” Dipoto said.
In August of 2020, Sheffield began a long streak where he was basically untouchable, posting a 4-1 record with a 2.64 ERA, only allowing 14 runs over the span of 47 innings. Over that stretch, the Mariners went 6-2. Sheffield had a good arsenal of pitches, where he really relied on his Sinker, which was used 47.6% of the time.
The future for Sheffield seemed very bright. With Logan Gilbert on his way to ‘The Show,’ as well, the two seemed like a potentially dynamic duo.
That was not the case.
Sheffield started the 2021 season very inconsistently, as he got hammered by the White Sox, allowing four runs, but then went 5.2 innings against the Dodgers, allowing only four hits. Sheffield then hit a cold streak, dropping the last 4 of 5 games as a starter. He was destroyed by the Yankees, allowing 6 earned runs. A left forearm strain knocked him out of his starting role. He would get some work out of the bullpen, but it was a very small six-game sample size.
So What’s Next For Sheffield?
The Mariners are poised to make a playoff run after a 21-year drought due to the emergence of the amazing pitching staff Dipoto and Servais have built. Guys like Flexen, Gilbert, Sadler, and Sewald emerged as legitimate pitchers. As we saw this offseason, DiPoto won’t be afraid to open the checkbook, as he picked up Cy Young winner Robbie Ray on a five-year, 115-million dollar deal. Here’s how the current rotation looks:
- Robbie Ray
- Marco Gonzales
- Chris Flexen
- Logan Gilbert
With rotation spot #5 still in question, I really feel the Mariners won’t go out for another starter and will stay home with the current farm system. Dipoto may have TOO MANY starting pitcher prospects, and it appears that Sheffield will be one of the odd men out. Guys like Justin Dunn will be returning, and Matt Brash has come on strong. There is a lot to like about the future of this team. Sheffield could be part of a trade package that Dipoto may do after the lockout ends. Sheffield has a lot of time to turn this around come spring training, but for now, his future is in question.